According to Aytek Çetin, Cappadocia in Turkey is a truly magnificent place. And as the 2021 International Landscape Photographer of the Year, no doubt now he’s thinking it’s even more special.

Writes Aytek, “The 60-million-year-old story of fairy chimneys and the fact they have been home to different civilizations for tens of thousands of years, makes Cappadocia extremely mysterious for me. If you are lucky, you can visit there during hazy, atmospheric conditions with a soft light pushing through at sunrise or sunset.”

These were exactly the conditions in which Aytek shot his cleverly framed study of the three fairy chimneys at sunrise on a winter morning. “The reason I chose this location is because I love the excitement inside me when the sun first hits the fairy chimneys and how it makes me feel like I'm living in the bronze age.”

Of course, to win the International Landscape Photographer of the Year requires more than one great shot, the award being based on a portfolio of entries – and the judges agreed that all four of Aytek’s photographs have a wonderful excitement and a special mood surrounding them.

Aytek Çetin was born and raised in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. “I graduated from the department of sales management at university and for many years I worked as a store manager for luxury Italian clothing brands.

“I used to go to the sea on my limited holidays, but after repeating the same kind of trips for years, it was starting to lose its meaning for me. Then I decided to do something different, to dive deeply into nature.

“I started to explore remote, mountainous regions and experiencing the energy of these mightiest entities of nature, left me deeply impressed and awakened a love for nature within. An interest in photography followed as a result and has now turned into a passion!

“In 2012, I bought a compact camera and then three years later, I upgraded to a full-frame DSLR with the idea of shooting better quality photos. To begin, photography was just a hobby, but now I'm working as a professional landscape photographer for the past one and one half years.”

Aytek primarily uses a Canon EOS 6D with Canon 17-40mm wide-angle and 70-200 f2.8 telephoto zoom lenses, sometimes with a Hoya polarising filter. “I use a small Lowepro bag to protect my camera and lenses and carry them inside my 70+10 trekking backpack. Since I usually hike with a heavy rucksack, including all my camping gear, I prefer to carry only two lenses and I think it is enough for me.” And maybe he sneaks in his Mavic Pro drone for the aerial shots as well.

Back in civilisation, Aytek uses Lightroom and Photoshop for post-production. “I always start in Lightroom with some preliminary adjustments for colour temperature, colour grading and colour improvement, after which I switch to Photoshop for more advanced editing and artistic touches.

“In Photoshop, I usually focus on managing the shadows and light transitions and increasing the sense of depth. In most of my photos, I darken the surrounding scene just a bit more to direct the viewer to the main subject.

“My philosophy on photo editing is to draw the viewer into the scene to make them feel like they are really there. Producing a sense of three-dimensionality and conveying the atmosphere are the keys to achieving this.

“Photographing in nature makes me extremely happy. I feel completely free and there’s a wonderful peace. At that moment, I forget everything and focus only on capturing the beauty I find. It is like a meditation for me.”

Aytek says his aim is to capture dramatic scene far away from ordinary views. “I especially love mystical and foggy weather conditions, and I'm trying to present these photos to the audience by blending them with my artistic perspective. Both Marc Adamus and Max Rive have been inspiring for me from the beginning.

“Although I've only entered a few competitions, they provide me with the motivation I need to get better and move forward, regardless of the outcome. I entered ILPOTY because I really think it is the most prestigious competition in the world, bringing together  top photographers and their photographs from all over the world.”


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